The best events at the 2017 International Festival of Authors

Eileen Myles, Desmond Cole, Lee Maracle, Heather O’Neill and Barbara Gowdy are among this year's speakers


INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF AUTHORS at Harbourfront Centre (235 Queens Quay West), October 19-29, $18, $15 IFOA supporters, students and under 25 free (except for special events). Flex passes (six events) $90. ifoa.org.


The 38th edition of the authors festival brings more than 200 participants from over 20 countries to celebrate words and ideas. The book blitz hits for over 10 days of a packed schedule. Here’s our list of can’t-miss events.

October 19

Art And Politics In The Age Of Resistance

This timely event asks the questions that are top of mind in the age of Trump – how can artists take a stand, and should they? – by engaging three writers to take them on. Giller winner André Alexis is joined by queer writer Eileen Myles, who lives in Marfa, Texas, and New York City – so has both sides of the American divide covered – and Harlem-based Kia Corthron, an explicitly political playwright and author who’s famously outspoken.

7 pm, Fleck Dance Theatre

October 20

Glorious And Free? Canada In 2017

Get ready for a kick-ass discussion featuring some of Canada’s most thought-provoking public intellectuals. Canadaland’s Jesse Brown, Desmond Cole, who sacrificed his Toronto Star column so he could speak his mind openly, Chatelaine editor-at-large Rachel Giese and Ojibway broadcaster Jesse Wente are featured in this year’s PEN Benefit, an essential event in the year of Canada 150. Note: this is a special event.

8 pm, Brigantine Room

October 21

In Conversation: Chantel Acevedo and Amanda Earl

I’m looking forward to facilitating the conversation between two writers eager to talk about women’s lives and what restricts them. In Cuban American Chantel Acevedo’s The Living Infinite, a reluctant princess tries to shed the chains of duty – shades of Princess Diana – and poet Amanda Earl too examines female resilience.

2 pm, Studio Theatre

October 22

In Conversation: Seth and Adrian Tomine

Two gifted graphic novelists – both can take credit for driving the surge in the genre’s influence – talk to each other about cartooning, their process and their inspiration.

11 am, Studio Theatre

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Sara Blaedel

Dissecting The Villain

IFOA continues to give cred to the thriller genre with a round table featuring Sara Blaedel, Chris Brookmyre, Nick Cutter and Andrew Pyper. The authors focus on how they create their meanies – and, I’m guessing, why that aspect of their practice is so much damn fun.

1 pm, Lakeside Terrace

October 23

GGBooks @ IFOA

The short-listers for the Governor General’s Award for fiction read from their works. They include Alison MacLeod (All The Beloved Ghosts), Kathleen Winter (Lost In September), Michael Kaan (The Water Beetles), Jocelyn Parr (Uncertain Weights And Measures) and Joel Thomas Hynes (We’ll All Be Burnt In Our Beds Some Night). Note: this is a special event.

8 pm, Fleck Dance Theatre

October 24

Keep It Short

Just because the story’s short doesn’t mean it’s easy to write. In fact, many authors have said the precision the genre demands has made them yearn to get back to novels. Bill Gaston, Diane Schoemperlen and Drew Hayden Taylor discuss what makes a short story work and why they relish the challenge of writing them.

6 pm, Lakeside Terrace

In Conversation with Heather O’Neill

Siri Agrell talks with two-time Giller short-lister Heather O’Neill about her novel The Lonely Hearts Hotel, in which two gifted children who meet in an orphanage separate and yearn to pursue artistic destinies. If only they could find each other. O’Neill’s always a great talker.

8 pm, Lakeside Terrace

October 25

Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize Finalists In Conversation

Carleigh Baker (Bad Endings), Claire Cameron (The Last Neanderthal), David Chariandy (Brother), Omar El Akkad (American War) and Leanne Betasamosake Simpson (This Accident Of Being Lost) discuss their work in the run-up to the award announcement. Note: this is a special event.

6:30 pm, Brigantine Rooms

October 26

In Conversation: Lee Maracle

First Nations writer Maracle talks with CBC broadcaster Duncan McCue about her latest book, My Conversations With Canadians, inspired by questions people have asked her over decades. Some are about her Indigenous experience, others about labour, being a woman and her attitude toward her Canadian citizenship. Maracle’s never one to hold back, so count on commentary that is pointed and passionate, especially since it’s the year of Canada 150.

6 pm, Brigantine Room

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Barbara Gowdy

In Conversation: Barbara Gowdy

Writer Jane Urquhart talks with Gowdy about her literary career and latest novel, Little Sister. Gowdy’s health issues have restricted her activities, so this is a rare and valuable chance to see her in action. Urquart is a friend, so the conversation is sure to be deep and intimate.

7 pm, Fleck Dance Theatre

In Conversation: John Boyne and Emma Donoghue

Authors-turned-screenwriters Boyne (The Boy In The Striped Pajamas) and Donoghue (Oscar-nominated for Room) talk with critic Richard Crouse about the pain and pleasure of adapting their books for the screen.

8 pm, Brigantine Room

October 27

Looking Back: History In Fiction

How do you get the period details exactly right in historical fiction? For that matter, do you have to, or does the story ultimately eclipse everything? David Coventry, Alison Pick, Emily Schultz and Rohan Wilson discuss why they’ve written period pieces and the challenges they faced in the process.

6 pm, Studio Theatre

October 28

In Conversation: Kyo Maclear And Antanas Sileika

Maclear (a Hilary Weston Prize finalist for Birds Art Life) and Sileika (Barefoot Bingo Caller) both make cityscapes central in their artistic visions. They discuss the specific ways urban landscapes inspired their recent works.

4 pm, Studio Theatre

susanc@nowtoronto.com | @susangcole

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